Learnings from the journey of essay-writing
What works for me, might not work for you. The key is in trying what fits for you.
Essay-writing is a topic that is best described as a work in progress. In my past, I have had high expectations to my own writing skills as well as have felt the pressure of the expectations on my shoulders. During high school, I truly enjoyed writing essays and thought pieces as they were a tool for me to unwind. On the other hand, my high school experience also taught me to multitask and gave me false confidence that I would be able to finish writing reviews or commentaries quickly and without the stress element. As the experience passed, so did the time restriction and my thoughts were able to flow freely across the paper or a Word document. However, the confidence of knowing my abilities stayed and therefore we end up in this moment, where the text you are currently reading is written in less than 24 hours before the deadline. However, experiencing what it is like to produce text while having removed the time restriction and be satisfied with it is something that I have attempted to achieve.
While I have not yet found the method that works the best for me, I can hereby share elements or practices of what have worked this far and are currently in the process of perfecting.
The Golden Circle.
I was fortunate to spend an afternoon in a workshop dedicated to the international teams in Proakatemia, where we got to learn of each other’s essay habits and provide feedback alongside action points to improve the current essay system. In our smaller groups, we revised Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model. The model consists of three circles inside one another. At the heart of the circle, there is the core question why. Inside a larger circle surrounding the why encompasses the question how and finally, the third and the largest circle asks the question what.
Following our fruitful fishbowl discussion, I began reflecting my journey of writing essays. How did my passion turn into something I disliked?
I realised that over the time, my reason for writing the essay and the purpose of the essays had shifted. I truly enjoyed writing philosophical or analytical essays, which was something I strayed from once other topics were introduced in the school curriculum back in the day. More than anything, I felt saddened at the reflection for my inability to recognize my wish to pursue or continue writing and creating for fun. Continuing with the circle model, I had also gotten stuck on the process where there was a time limit on the essays. In retrospect, it is truly amazing what we can accomplish if we try hard enough – even now, the primary content of the essay has been finished within the time limit we practised once upon a time.
Finally, the what. I hadn’t realised until now how much power and freedom one holds when the topics are outlined but the execution of the presentation of the content is free.
Be in tune with your needs.
I have not yet created a habit of my essay-writing, meaning that my study space and needs for effective writing change rapidly. Whether it is a change of scenery, a quiet setting or music you really like, I warmly suggest to listen to yourself and what kind of a space do you need at the moment as opposed to forcing yourself to study at a time when it is the most inconvenient in a place that does not help you focus.
It is worth experimenting to see when are you at your most productive and when do you feel like a good time to write an essay. To me, that time is around 9 in the evening, where I am not expecting to receive any urgent calls/messages and can freely focus on my thoughts. This definitely varies for individuals: some of us are able to squeeze in an effective period of essay-writing in an improvised place while others might need a quiet place at a certain time of day. Either way, it is useful to observe yourself and your actions to ensure that you are in the best mindset.
Time blocking methods such as the Pomodoro technique has become increasingly popular. The theory behind Pomodoro is inducing a set time of hyperfocus, where distractions are eliminated and you only have a set time to work before a break.
The official Pomodoro states to have 4×25-minute sprints with a 5-minute break in-between before a longer, 30-minute break.
However, everything can be modified. My modifications included time: I would have a timer set to play a tone every ten minutes for an hour and a half to focus my thoughts and understand how much time I had left.
All methods can be modified
Perhaps the simplest and the hardest tip to share is that understanding who you are as a person/essay-writer is the key factor in creating a meaningful life and setting an example. If a method does not work and you are unhappy with your product, try to change some of the elements contributing to the situation. All techniques can be modified as long as you find a supportive environment and way to excel at your essays and your life.
Conclusively, writing an essay of the topic has affected me very positively due to the reflective nature of an anxiety I have held with me for a while. I see myself developing and I’m excited to see this happen. Additionally, I sincerely hope this would inspire other readers to re-evaluate aspects of their essay-writing or a topic they are uncomfortable in order to find joy in hobbies or topics they used to enjoy.
Sinek, S. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009)
Article. Palmer, T. 2019. Why You Should Try the Pomodoro Technique for Writing
Cover photo: self-made photo